It's been a slow start to the Japanese boxing calendar this year, but this coming Saturday we get out first live televised card of 2018. The show, set to be aired by G+, features the first Japanese title fight of 2018 along with a number of other names fighters, including 2 prospects who could really break out over the next 12 months.
The main event will see Japanese Bantamweight champion Ryo Akaho (31-2-2, 20) make his second defense of the title, as he takes on the under-rated, and aggressive, Yusuke Suzuki (9-3, 6). Akaho, a former 2-time world title challenger, won the title last March and recorded his first defense with a stoppage win against Yuta Saito last August. Although a heavy handed fighter, at this level at least, he's a ling way from being the best Japanese fighter at 118lbs and could well see his reign being a short one, given the rising talent in the country. Suzuki started his career with big aspirations but sets backs to Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Jeffrey Francisco slowed his climb. Coming in to this the challenger has won his last 3, and earned the right to fight Akaho thanks to his 7th riund TKO win over Eita Kikuchi in a Japanese title eliminator last October. This should be a hard hitting and violent war.
In the chief support bout we'll see Charles Bellamy (26-3-2, 17) return to the ring after more than a year out. The Japanese based American will be up against a Thai foe, who we've been told is a natural 140lb fighter and should look much smaller than Bellamy. The talented New Yorker born fighter hasn't fought since a controversial 2017 draw with Yuki Beppu and will likely be looking to make up for lost time this, with a quick blow out here and a speedy return to action.
One of the notable prospects on this card is Japanese Youth champion Junto Nakatani (13-0, 10), who takes on Filipino visitor Jeronil Borres (8-3-1, 5). The unbeaten 20 year old has been impressive since his 2015 debut, and claimed the 2016 Flyweight Rookie of the Year along with the Japanese Youth title last year. Beronil began his career 7-0-1 but has lost 3 of his last 4, including a very controversial loss to Joo Hyun Jung last February. The Filipino is the naturally smaller man and whilst he's a good fighter at his level, we suspect the power and size of Nakatani will be too much.
Another unbeaten on this show is the very exciting Kai Chiba (7-0, 6), who faces of with Filipino foe Brian Lobetania (12-4-3, 10). Last year we saw Chiba go 4-0 (3) and scoring a very notable win in a thriller with Ryo Matsubara, in what was one of many hidden gems of 2017, here he will be looking to continue his climb towards a title fight, but comes up against a very live Lobetania. The Filipino has lost 4 of his last 6, but is a natural puncher and will be looking to stop Chiba, in what is likely to be a very thrilling action bout.
The once beaten Hironobu Matsunaga (11-1, 5) is expected to be in action on the card, though no information at all is available on his opponent. The talented Matsunaga fought 3 rimes in 2016, scoring 3 solid wins, but was inactive in 2017 and will be hoping to rebuild his career this year, potentially moving towards some kind of title fight before the year is over.
There is also set to be a Chinese card, with a number of title bouts.
In the main event of this card we'll see once beaten Chinese hopeful Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (12-1-1, 5) take on Indonesian visitor John Ruba (15-3-1, 8) for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Light Welterweight title. The exciting Chinese fighter was beaten last time ouit by Rikki Naito, but was unlucky in what was a very competitive bout. It's hard to know how good he is but he has looked good through his career so far. As for Ruba he's a very promising fighter at this level, and comes into this bout on a 7 fight winning run...but it would take a career best win for Rub to win here.
Arguably the most interesting bout on this card will see Jing Xiang (13-4-2,3) take on very talented Filipino fighter Dexter Alimento (13-2, 9) in a contest for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental Light Flyweight title. Coming in to this Xiang is on a 5 fight winning run having claimed the WBO Oriental Flyweight title in 2016. He has come up short against some decent fighters in the past, such as Macrea Gandionco and Ben Mananquil, but a decision win over Mananquil in their second bout shows his ability.
Also on this card is a 10 rounder between once beaten local hopeful Jian Wang (4-1) and Thai foe Yutthichai Wannawong (6-4, 5) for the WBO Oriental Youth Super Bantamweight title. The 21 year old Wang has scored back to back wins following a loss in a regional title bout. The Thai visitor lost his first 3 bouts, all in Japan, but has gone 6-1 (4) since then and claimed a Thai title on his way up. On paper this isn't the most interesting of bouts, but the Thai has a little bit of form and could make for an a decent test.
Belfast, United Kingdom
In regards to Asian fighters the biggest single fight is a Bantamweight unification contest, as Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18) takes on Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9) in Belfast. Coming in to that bout the heavy handed Zhakiyanov will be looking to defend the WBA title, however the Kazakh will be up against a real boxing talent in the form of the excellent Burnett. For both men this will not only be a unification world title bout, but also their first defense, making this a very tricky assignment for two men who only won their title's earlier this year. The Kazakh upset Rau'shee Warren for his title earlier this year, out hustling the American in a very competitive bout, whilst Burnett completely schooled fellow Brit Lee Haskins, despite one judge some how confusing the two fighters. This should be a really good bout,and could well crown the heir apparent for the Bantamweight division.
Whilst the biggest single fight, from an Asian perspective, takes place in Northern Ireland it's hard not to feel like a card from Tokyo is actually the more interesting show. Not only does it have a Japanese title fight, but it also has 4 Japanese title eliminators, and really does promise a fantastic value show.
The main event sees fast rising prospect Shuichiro Yoshino (5-0, 3) battle against veteran Spicy Matsushita (17-9-1, 2) for the Japanese Lightweight title, with both men competing for their first national titles. The unbeaten Yoshino has been touted since his debut, and really has looked like a champion in the making thanks to wins over Chaiyong Sithsaithong, Yoshitaka Kato and Kenta Onjo, and a win here is likely to see him begin a notable reign as a national champion, with not many domestic fighters looking up to the task of beating him. As for Matsushita the bout really is a must win, and he does come into the contest on the back of a huge win over a then unbeaten Yuichiro Kasuya. Sadly for Matsushita form has been an issue and his recent wins have all been razor thin decisions, which won't bode well against the talented Yoshino.
At Featherweight we see an elimination bout as Dai Iwai (21-4-1, 7) and Taiki Minamoto (13-5, 11) battle for the right to challenger for the national title next year. Of the two men Iwai is the more experienced and the more technically gifted fighter, but Minamoto certainly has the edge in power, and acquitted himself well in a 2015 loss to the then Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni. Coming into this Iwai will be the favourite, we suspect hat the bout will be incredibly competitive.
In a potential thriller at Welterweight we'll see the tough and hard working Moon Hyun Yun (18-4-3, 4) take on the big punching Ryota Yada (14-4,12), in possibly the best bout of the card. Yun is coming in to this after a Japanese FOTY contender against Shusaku Fujinaka and he's unbeaten in 6, including a draw with former champion Nobuyuki Shindo. The heavy handed Yada has blown out his last 2 opponents, but has a lot of question marks lingering over him following last years stoppage loss to Jayar Inson, who moved up in weight and bullied him. We're expecting this one to be a little bit special, and can't see anything but an action bout.
Another potential action bout will be at Bantamweight and see veteran Eita Kikuchi (21-4-4, 8) take on the exciting Yusuke Suzuki (8-3, 5). The 31 year old Kikuchi lost 2 of his first 11, before rebuilding his career and has subsequently only been beaten by Shingo Wake, in an OPBF title fight, and the aforementioned Minamoto, with both of those losses coming at Super Bantamweight. On paper Suuki's record is less than great, but to date his losses have all come to very good fighters, with the first coming to Yusaku Kuga back in 2013, the second to Ryoichi Tamura in 2015 and the third coming to Jeffrey Francisco in the Philippines last year. All 3 of those losses were close and were losses which will aid the development of the 28 year southpaw.
Another eliminator will take place Flyweight, and sees the always fun to watch Katsunori Nagamine (14-1, 10) battle against the in-form and very under-rated Akinori Hoshino (14-7-1, 9). The heavy handed Nagamine began his career 10-0 before being beaten by the excellent Ken Shiro in 2015. Since that loss Nagamine has bounced back with 4 stoppages, including thrilling wins over Kenya Yamashita, Mako Matsuyama and Tetsuya Tomioka, which have all been all out wars. Around a year agoHoshino was 11-7-1 (8) and it looked like his career was going no where. Since then however he has moved down in weight and reeled off 3 big wins, including a stoppage of Kenya Yamashita and a decision over Shun Kosaka. We're expecting another good one here, though it's hard to see a win for Hoshino.
Gümligen bei Bern, Switzerland
There's yet more notable action featuring a Japanese fighter as Aniya Seki (31-3-2, 5) takes on Hungarian Kleopatra Tolnai (13-12-1, 4) in Seki's adopted homeland of Switzerland. The bout will see Seki defending her WBC Silver female Bantamweight title, for the second time, and in all fairness this be a simple defense against an opponent who has won just 1 of her last 5.
Attention in Japan this coming Thursday focuses on a Misako promotion in Tokyo, where fans get two title bouts.
The first of those title bouts will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (21-7-1, 14) making the first defense of his title as he takes on Yusuke Konno (11-3, 5), who comes into the bout as the #1 ranked challenger. Aso won the title earlier this year, in what was his third shot at the belt, and will be looking to keep a tight grasp on it given his long and hard career, though it's fair to say he has taken punishment during his career and it's hard to know how much he has left in the tank. This will be Konno's first title bout, and he'll come into the contest very hungry,but will be the under-dog. Interestingly the winner of this could be the next target for the really talented Koki Inoue.
The other title bout will see world ranked OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (16-3-1, 9) defending his title against Korean challenger Sa Myung Noh (10-3, 3). The under-rated Takenaka is a very talented boxer who has built from losses to good fighters, like Hisashi Amagasa, and looks to be one of the rising contenders in the packed Featherweight division, though he would be the big under-dog against any of the current world champion. Noh is a pretty good fighter, but his technical flaws should see him be easy pickings for Takenaka, who we suspect will box his way into control, before closing the show in the middle rounds.
In an interesting under-card bout we'll see the under-rated Yusuke Suzuki (7-3, 5) battle against the more experienced Keita Nakano (14-10-6, 4). On paper Suzuki might not look anything special but he's a genuine talent, and was a very good amateur before turning professional in late 2012. He has been matched hard through his career, losing to Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Jeffrey Francisco, though could well have been 10-0 (5) with a bit of luck. Nakano, fighting for the 31st time as a professional has mixed at a good level and will be the under-dog here, but he is certainly a live under-dog.
In Thailand on the same day fight fans will see former world title title challenger Stamp Kiatniwat (16-1, 6) battle against Filipino foe Michael Enriquez (13-6-1, 9) in what looks like an interesting match up. The Thai youngster will be favoured, and he showed he was legitimate in his 2016 loss to Kazuto Ioka, but Enriquez will go to war with him and the bout could be very, very fan friendly, as Enriquez's bout against Rex Tso was back in 2015.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
Title action returns to the Korakuen Hall on February 9th as we get a title double header, as part of a Diamond Glove card.
The main event of the card sees OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (15-3-1, 8) defending his title against fellow Japanese fighter Ryuto Araya (11-4-1, 3). The champion will be seeking his third defense here and is looking to build on recent wins over the likes of Vinvin Rufino, Akira Shono and Randy Braga. Although the OPBF champion Takenaka is relatively unknown outside of Japan, though may well be looking to break out this year and move towards a potential bout of international note. Whilst Takenaka is heading places the same can't really be said of Araya, who has won his last 3 but is 6-4 in his last 10, including stoppage losses to Daisuke Watanabe and Takuya Yamaguchi. This is a big opportunity for Araya but a huge step up in class and likely another loss for the struggling 29 year old.
A potentially thrilling co-feature will see the all action Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13) face off with the heavy handed Kazuki Matsuyama (13-7-1, 7) for the vacant Japanese Light Welterweight title, a title that was vacated by Hiroki Okada last year. The under-rated Aso has lost in two title fights at this level, losing twice to former champion Okada, but does deserve to remain in the title mix and is one of the better Japanese fighters at 140lbs. For Matsuyama this will be his first title fight and gives him a great chance to claim a title, though recent stoppage losses to Shuhei Tsuchiya and Daishi Nagata don't bode well against a fighter like Aso who will come out swinging here.
A good looking under-card bout sees the under-rated Yusuke Suzuki (6-3, 4) take on Ken Kodama (8-2-1, 3). Suzuki might not have a great record but his losses have come to good fighters in the shape of Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Jeffrey Francisco and he was a talented amateur who could well bounce back from this less than stellar start. As for Kodama he probably isn't quite as good as his record suggests and a win here would be the best of his career so far.
An interesting supporting bout will see veteran Norihito Tanaka (14-5, 7) end a 5 year break from the ring, as he takes on Yuto Takahashi (6-2, 4). Although inactive Tanaka was once a good fighter, and has shared the ring with the likes of Kenichi Horikawa, Ryoichi Taguchi and Akira Yaegashi. As for Takahashi he has bounced back from back-to-back losses to Tsubasa Koura and Naoyuki Tsukada and could prove to be too young and too fresh for Tanaka.
On the under-card we'll teenage hopeful Izuki Tomioka (1-0) take on Korean visitor Joon Woo Park (4-6, 2). Tomioka looked impressive in his debut, back in December against fellow debutant Tatsuki Shinozuka, and will be looking to impress against here. Park has lost 3 of his last 4 but hasn't been stopped since his debut, more than 8 years ago, and should prove to be sturdy if nothing else.
Metro Manila, Philippines
The action in May is pretty hectic after a slow start. The action doesn't actually kick off until May 4th when Filipino fans get a title double double.
In one of the two title bouts fans will see the once beaten Jeffrey Francisco (13-1-1, 1) battle against Yusuke Suzuki (6-2, 4) for the EPBC Bantamweight title. On paper this might not look like anything special however it's a really good match up with Francisco's only loss coming to the very decent Jestoni Autida whilst Suzuki's only losses are to Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, two more very good fighters. The bout is likely to be a boxer vs puncher affair but a very good one to watch.
The other title bout on this card will see the unbeaten Joe Noynay (10-0-1, 3) battle former OPBF title challenger Richard Pumicpic (17-7-2, 6) in what looks like a very tough assignment for the WBC International Super Bantamweight title. Noynay comes into this on the back of a draw against the under-rated, and under-sized, Alie Laurel in what was a coming of age fight for Noynay. For Pumicpic this is a chance to claim a notable title.
As for the under-card on this card it features a host of notable fighters. Including the unbeaten Dave Penalosa (10-0, 7), former world title challenger Silvester Lopez (25-11-2, 18), the once touted Renan Trongco (17-6, 10) and the exciting Allan Vallespin (5-0, 5)
Finally, it seems, Japanese action is picking up with the second title bout with in a week and a second card of note to begin the year.
The second Japanese title fight of the year comes just days after the first, which saw Hiroki Okada retain the Japanese 140lb title, this time we see a bout for a vacant title and, on paper, it's a mismatch. The bout in question sees former title challenger Nobuyuki Shindo (16-3-1, 6) battle against the experienced Yasuhiro Okawa (14-11-3, 5), who is set for his first title bout. On paper this is a huge mismatch but Okawa is better than his record suggests and has improved drastically from his 7-9-3 (2) start to professional life. Saying that however it's hard to see Shindo losing given how impressive he was in a Japanese title bout last year.
In the main support bout we see a former world champion in action as former WBC Flyweight kingpin Sonny Boy Jaro (42-13-5, 30) takes on Japanese ranked fight Yusuke Suzuki (6-2, 4), in what looks to be a very tough ask for Suzuki. Interestingly Jaro was once 0-3 in Japan though after a pair of wins in the “Land of the Rising Sun” last year he could level his record in the country with a win over Suzuki. For the 27 year old Japanese fighter this is an opportunity to score a big win, but he will be the huge under-dog.
Another supporting bout here will see former world title challenger Makoto Fuchigami (21-11, 12) take on Hideo Mikan (7-10-1, 2) in a must win bout for both men. Fuchigami, best known for being stuffed by Gennady Golovkin, has lost 4 of his last 5, with the last 2 both being stoppages. He needs a top performances here against Mikan, who has lost his last 3. Given that both will view this as a real opportunity we could end up with a very fun fight here.
One final under-card bout of note will see former Rookie of the year Hisao Narita (9-3, 4) take on Japanese based Colombian Elfelos Vega (5-2, 3). Both fighters were beaten last time out and know that a win here will give them something to build on, but it's fair to say that Narita will come into the bout as the favourite.
The most notable Asian card of the day is Dangan134 which is being held at the Korakuen Hall and features 4 bouts of real note, including a Japanese title fight and an intriguing bout between relative novices.
The event of the card is the title bout which will see Takuya Kogawa (23-4, 13) battle against Hiroki Saito (9-4, 5) in a bout for the vacant Japanese Flyweight title. On paper it looks like a mismatch but the truth of the matter is that this is expected to be a very hard fought, exciting and competitive match up, possibly even the fight of the month. Stylistically Kogawa is always involved in fun fights and Saito has proven he's not a fan of taking a backwards step.
The chief support bout will see former Japanese Super Featherweight title challenger Shingo Eto (16-3-1, 9) battle against experienced Filipino Edgar Gabejan (27-31-6, 9). Again this looks like a mismatch on paper but Gabejan is much better than his record suggests and holds a very notable win over current OPBF champion Vinvin Rufino. This could turn out to be a very interesting and tough contest.
Another supporting bout will see the under-rated Hideo Sakamoto (16-1-2, 5) attempt to notch his 7th straight win as he takes on Hiroaki Teshigawara (9-1-1, 4), who has won his last 4. On paper this looks like an interesting match up but it's hard to imagine anything but a Sakamoto win as he moves towards a Japanese of OPBF title fight.
Former Sakamoto foe Ryoichi Tamura (3-2-1, 1) is also on this card in a fantastic match up against Yusuke Suzuki (6-1, 4). This bout won't appeal to many outside of the hardcore Japanese domestic fans but it has the potential to be a genuine barn burner between two talented and over-looked fighters who could well both go on to advance to title level over the coming years. This really is a mouth watering bout for those who look beyond the “records” of fighters.
As well as the show in Tokyo there is also one in Osaka. This card is much weaker but does have an interesting main event as recent Japanese title challenger Atsushi Aburada (10-7, 6) takes on Tetsuya Hisada (22-9-2, 12). On paper Hisada has the better record however he has struggled in recent times, with just 2 wins in his last in his last 7, Aburada on the other hand is coming in on an exceptional win win over Takeru Kamikubo.
Pathhum Thani, Thailand
We also get a relatively interesting bout from Thailand as Nawaphon Por Chokchai (28-0, 21) defends his WBC Asian Boxing Council Flyweight against Filipino foe Wiljan Ugbaniel (13-3-1, 4). Nawaphon hasn't impressed us in the way his record would suggest however he should over-come Ugbaniel, who was stopped last time out by Melvin Gumban.
In Yemen fans will get the chance to see the charismatic Hani Ansi (22-0-1, 20) take on an as yet un-named opponent for the UBO Super Flyweight title. From what we understand this was supposed to be the much anticipated Ansi Vs Ali Raymi bout, though Raymi's untimely passing left Ansi's team struggling to find a replacement foe.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
February 9th- Naito Vs Ito kicks off the Champions Carnival whilst Go Onaga faces former world title contender
The Champions Carnival is one of the many traditions in Japanese boxing that other countries, especially those with valued domestic titles, should make a note of and try to replicate. It forces the domestic champion to defend their belt against the top contender once a year, effectively to begin the year.
This year's champions carnival kicks off with one of the best looking domestic title bouts that have been announced as the unbeaten Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (11-0, 5) defends his belt against fellow unbeaten fighter Masayuki Ito (16-0-1, 7). For Naito this is his third defence of his title and looks likely to be very tough with Ito looking to maintain his unbeaten record and claim his national title after having previously held the WBC Youth Lightweight title. For those wondering what the Champions Carnival gives us, it's brilliant match up like this.
The main event isn't the only bout of note here with two really good under-card bouts, both scheduled for 8 rounds.
One of those bout will see world ranked fighter Go Onaga (22-2-2, 16) battles against former inter world title contender Breilor Teran (13-10-1, 6). Teran was last seen in the ring losing a decision to David Sanchez in a battle for the WBA interim Super Flyweight title and despite his record his a very capable fighter who should be able to really test Onaga who was once regarded as one of the top Ohashi gym fighters, at 34 however Onaga's career is at the sink of swim stage and he needs a clear win here.
The other good looking under-card bout will see Super Flyweight-come-Bantamweight Yusuke Suzuki (5-1, 3) battles against Akinori Hoshino (11-6-1, 8). Suzuki is unbeaten since losing a razor thin 5 round decision to Yusaku Kuga back in 2013 and since racked up 3 wins, including a notable decision over Monico Laurente. Hoshino hasn't impressed in the same way as Suzuki but he has run good fighters close, including Tatsuya Takahashi and Ryuichi Funai. This could be a very good bout between two men wanting to take a big step towards a title fight.
One third under-card bout that has caught our eye comes at 140lbs where the unbeaten Daishi Nagata (1-0-1) battles against Ryoji Miyagi (7-5-1, 4). The 25 year old Nagata scored an impressive, but controversial, win last time out against Jeffrey Arienza and will be hoping to build on that against Miyagi who has lost his last 3, though faced stiff competition with bouts against Hiroki Okada and Koki Koshikawa
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)